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Is Fruit Bad For You?

Ask the Diet Doctor: Is Fruit Really a "Free" Diet Food?

We are excited to share one of our fave stories from Shape here on FitSugar. This week Shape turns to nutritional consultant Mike Roussell, PhD, for some help!

Q: Can I really eat as much fresh fruit as I want and still lose weight?

A: Unfortunately, no. Fresh fruit is a healthy choice and loaded with vitamins and antioxidants; however fruit still contains calories and carbohydrates. These are two things that can stop your weight-loss progress in its tracks if left unchecked.

Whether or not you should eat fruit while dieting has always been a controversial topic. The Internet is cluttered with articles claiming that eating fruit will make you fat, while more recently Weight Watchers has deemed fruit a "zero points food" as part of the Points Plus system, allowing dieters to eat all the fruit they want without it impacting their daily points total.

Which is correct? Is your daily cup of blueberries to blame for that extra layer of belly fat you can't seem to burn off? Or is it an innocent bystander in your quest for your ideal body? One of the reasons that fruit is so controversial is because it can be a double-edged sword. While fruit is a very nutritious food that should be included in a weight-loss diet, there may come a time when you will need to reduce or temporarily remove fruit from your diet to reach your goals. Let's take a closer look at both sides of this controversy.

Find out if fruit is good for a diet after the break!

Why Fruit Is a Good Food For Weight Loss
The carbohydrates in fruit do not have a huge impact on your blood sugar levels, as most fruits have a low glycemic load. Fruits can also supply a significant dose of fiber to your diet, which will slow digestion and make you feel fuller. For example, just one cup of raspberries contains eight grams of fiber. Fruits like blueberries are also a good source of antioxidants, which can help lower your blood pressure, fight off oxidative stress, and in some cases, work at the DNA level to aid in weight loss.

Why Fruit Might Hinder Weight Loss
Fruit is high in the simple sugar fructose, which is the main reason why many people trying to lose weight remove it from their diet. Unlike glucose — the most common simple sugar that's sent to your muscles, brain, and other organs for them to use as energy — fructose is only processed by your liver. Why is that bad? If your liver already has ample energy, there is a higher likelihood that your liver will repackage the excess fructose as fat, saving it for use at a later time. While this is a biochemical truth, its impact on your waistline is blown out of proportion, especially when you consider that fruit isn't even one of the top five sources of fructose in the American diet.

More relevant reasons why fruit should not be given the "eat as much as you want" label: when you're trying to lose weight, calories and carbohydrates matter. One banana contains 100 calories and 27 grams of carbohydrates. One apple can contain as much as 115 calories and 30 grams of carbohydrates.

Limiting carbohydrate intake to 100 grams per day is a common target for people using a moderately carbohydrate-restricted approach to weight loss. If that is the case, eating two bananas and one apple will take up 84 percent of your carbohydrate intake for the entire day. Even if you are eating 1,800 calories per day and 40 percent of those calories from carbohydrates (a "zone"-type approach), two bananas and one apple will take up 46 percent of your carbohydrates for that day.

The main point that I'm trying to illustrate is that fruits are not "free" foods and that treating them that way could quickly derail your weight-loss efforts. It's easy to eat 100 grams worth of carbohydrates in one day from fruit alone, and if you're treating them as if they have no caloric value, you will unknowingly be eating 400 extra calories per day.

Simple Tips to Enjoy Fruit and Still Lose Weight
1. Focus on berries and fibrous and small fruits. Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, kiwis, clementines, plums, peaches, and small apples are the kinds of fruits you should reach for first.

2. Enjoy fruits in moderation but focus on eating more vegetables. Fruits are good, but vegetables, especially green leafy or fibrous vegetables, should be a focus on your plan.

3. If you need to cut carbs/calories from your diet, start with grains and starchy carbs and then move onto fruits. There comes a time in everyone's diet when they need to eat less. Always remove the most carbohydrate-dense foods first (as they will be the most calorie-dense of your carbohydrates as well). You'll find that as the carbohydrates and calories in your diet get lower, when you're really starting to hone in on losing the stubborn fat, your fruit intake will be decreased as a function of how you have progressively removed foods from your diet.

A final note: while fruit is not a free food for weight loss, it's also not going to make you fat.

Dr. Mike Roussell, PhD, is a nutritional consultant known for his ability to transform complex nutritional concepts into practical habits and strategies for his clientele, which includes professional athletes, executives, food companies, and top fitness facilities. Dr. Mike is the author of Dr. Mike's Seven-Step Weight Loss Plan and the upcoming Six Pillars of Nutrition.

Connect with Dr. Mike to get more simple diet and nutrition tips by following @mikeroussell on Twitter or becoming a fan of his Facebook page.

To get the latest health, fitness, beauty, and fashion news, follow @Shape_Magazine on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook.

More from Shape.com:

Losing Weight and Not Feeling Great: Why You May Feel Lousy as You Lose

Junk Food That's Good For You

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